Sony plans to work with Japanese oil company Idemitsu Kosan Co. on the development of luminous materials for future OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays, the two companies said Tuesday.

Sony and Idemitsu will cross-license OLED-related patents as part of the joint development plan. A formal deal is expected to be signed at the end of January, they said.

OLED displays work by running an electrical current through an organic luminous material, which causes the materials to luminesce. Because the material produces light a back-light isn't required and so display panels can be potentially thinner, more energy efficient and cheaper than existing LCD (liquid crystal display) panels.

Some basic OLED displays are already in commercial production and can be found in devices such as digital music players, digital still cameras and mobile phones. However the technology is still not mature enough to scale up to larger sizes to make long-lasting panels suitable for applications such as televisions or computer monitors.

Many companies including Sony are pursuing development of OLED for these markets because the technology is capable of producing colours that match or beat existing LCD panels.